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Senators show bipartisan concern about rapid expansion of AI

Senators shared concerns about privacy, and the need to hold tech companies accountable for any harm caused by AI.
Senators show bipartisan concern about rapid expansion of AI
Posted at 5:27 PM, May 16, 2023

Senators on Tuesday demonstrated the disturbing and convincing possibilities of artificial intelligence.

Senate Judiciary subcommittee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal played a deep fake audio recording of his own voice. That recording said, "Too often, we've seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation: The unbridled exploitation of personal data, the proliferation of disinformation and the deepening of societal inequality."

Blumenthal followed that up with a clarification: "That voice was not mine. The words were not mine. And the audio was an AI voice cloning software trained on my floor speeches."

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed a sense of urgency and raised concerns about the dangers this expanding technology poses.

"We cannot afford to be as late to responsibly regulating generative AI as we have been to social media, because the consequences both positive and negative, will exceed those of social media by orders of magnitude," said Sen. Chris Coons.

The CEO of the company behind ChatGPT, Sam Altman, testified before the subcommittee about the value AI can bring, but also welcomed government oversight and accountability.

SEE MORE: Listen how AI can clone your voice, use it in phishing scams

"I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening. But we tried to be very clear eyed about what the downside cases and the work that we have to do to mitigate that," said Altman.

Senators shared concerns about privacy, the need to hold tech companies accountable for any harm caused by AI, and the desire to compensate the content creators whose information feeds the technology.

Also testifying Tuesday were IBM's chief privacy and trust officer Christina Montgomery, and Gary Marcus, a professor emeritus from New York University. Both echoed Altman's call for government regulation.

"We have unprecedented opportunities here, but we are also facing a perfect storm of corporate irresponsibility, widespread deployment, lack of adequate regulation and inherent unreliability," said Marcus.

All three witnesses suggested possible regulations for artificial intelligence. Ideas included requiring AI companies to be transparent about how the technology was developed, creating a licensing requirement, or launching an entirely new government agency to oversee the industry.

Tuesday's hearing was first in a series Sens. Blumenthal and Hawley plan to hold, and the bipartisan nature of the hearing shows the issue of AI could be a bright spot of agreement for a divided Congress.

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